A Full-Frame View of Photography Degrees

The pop of the flash, the click of the shutter, an immortal moment in time. Photographers crystallize the landscapes and smiles of the world and let them stand as evidence of life being lived. A degree in photography can help you capture these moments in breathtaking fashion, taking your hobby to the next level or setting you on the path to turn your passion into a career.

What Skills Can I Learn with a Degree in Photography?

Photography degrees are offered by numerous universities, and no two programs are exactly alike, but they do all share common characteristics. Take a look at this short list of basic skills taught in photography courses:

  • Photographic principles such as lighting, aperture, and shutter speed
  • Adobe Photoshop and other professional image-editing software
  • Decoding and constructing the narrative of an image
  • Proper techniques for capturing images in a variety of settings

Some photography degree programs allow you to specialize in your particular field of interest, be it fashion photography, sports photography, portraiture, or any other specialty, and some degrees in photography provide a comprehensive general education in the art. Take some time to research schools that offer photography degrees and decide which one best fits your needs as a student.

Photography Degree Programs: the Big Picture

Many universities offer both two- and four-year degrees in photography. The two-year degrees include an associate of science in photography, which focuses mainly on the technical elements of the craft. A popular four-year photography degree is the bachelor of fine arts, which extends its photography courses to include general image design and the handling of commercial concerns.

If pursuing an associate's degree, you can look forward to some of the following photography courses:

  • Design Fundamentals
  • History of Photography
  • Location Lighting
  • Imaging Software I & II

The bachelor's degree track contains some courses more oriented toward building a career out of your skills:

  • Commercial Photography
  • Clients and Communications
  • Web Design for Photographers
  • Business Launch

Many entry-level positions that lead to a professional photography career require a photography degree, even those that start you out mixing chemicals in the lab. Wire service photography positions also usually recommend or require a degree in photography from an accredited institution.

The Working Life of a Photographer

There are several different styles of career available to those with photography degrees. Professional photographers may shoot only weddings, or only news stories, or only portraits in a private studio. What's more, professional photographers choose between salaried and freelance positions, with the former customarily bringing greater job stability and higher wages.

Earnings data for photographers in different locations around the country was compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009. Take a look at the mean yearly income of professional photographers in certain U.S. cities:

  • Los Angeles, CA: $64,110
  • Chicago, IL: $53,830
  • New York, NY: $50,470
  • Minneapolis, MN: $47,820
  • San Francisco, CA: $47,520

As you can see, salaries for professional photographers varies widely. This goes to show that you have the opportunity to make the most of your photography degree if you discover how to get as much out of it as the effort you put in. Degrees in photography may not be for everyone, but one just might be for you.

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